Mariette, you work as a "Personalised Nutrition Business Consultant" - how did you decide for this job?
I decided to be a registered dietitian/nutritionist after leaving school. So essentially I worked in the clinical setting, then moved into industry and now I am involved in the Personalised nutrition industry, so my title really reflects what I do now, but at heart I am a nutritionist. I decided on this because I love technology, nutrition, health and learning, so currently with industries merging, it ticks all the boxes for me to work as a freelance consultant.
What did you do before and what was your work about at Nestlé Healthcare Nutrition?
I started my career in the food catering industry for a very short time, then moved into the hospital setting in the UK, focusing on gastroenterology and surgery until I finally completed a business degree (MBA) and moved into industry. At Nestlé, I was a medical affairs manager for specialist brands for adults and pediatrics. My role involved training the sales team, liaising with Key opinion leaders, new product development and connecting with practitioners on the ground to raise brand awareness and grow market share.
What did you study and at which university? What specialization did you have?
I completed a BSc (Hons) in Nutrition & Dietetics which is a 4 year degree course at Stellenbosch University (South-Africa). Immediately after I graduated I also completed a sports nutrition certificate and then went onto study a Masters in Business Administration at the Open University (London) and now completing a PhD at the University of Bradford (UK)
So I guess I have a mixed background, because that´s what I enjoy most. In the hospital my area of expertise was gastroenterology and artififcial nutrition for people who had problems absorbing or assimilating food. I then developed an interest in nutritional genomics because of my exposure to Crohn´s disease, and now I am interested in all omics as well as technologies that can help us make better decisions and improve our lives. So now I would say, my specialization is in Personalised Nutrition so I can make the connection between the scientific world and the business world to ultimately help people live longer and healthier lives.
Did you like the studies and would you study the same again?
I would say that I liked the course, but being young and foolish I don´t think I realized that it would become my actual job. With maturity and work experience, I learnt what I liked and what I was and was not good at. So it was a good starting point to get the basics in place. However, if I had to write a course now, I would include many other elements that I think are crucial for the survival of the profession and also in terms of marketability and value proposition of the nutrition professional. Technological advancement, consumer behavior and healthcare budgets have a big influence on where opportunities lie, and if you´re not taught how to continually learn, see gaps and recreate the status quo, it can be a competitive difficult environment, where only the toughest will survive. Would I study it again? Only if I could design the course!
How can we imagine a typical day?
My day is usually planned the day before.
I get up at 6.30am meditate and am grateful for 20minutes
Do Yoga Exercise for ~20 minutes
Give the kids breakfast and send them off to school
8.30am I switch on the computer and start on what I want to work on, or on my own projects
11.30 Late morning I check emails and answer other people´s agendas
1pm Work on projects or conference calls
3- 4.30pm I read articles or listen to podcasts
4.30pm Answer emails
Close of the day with 1 hour of walking
Start cooking! And do homework
What would you recommend Nutrition Experts to do in order to have a successful career?
Learning is key, always stretch yourself out of your own comfort zone, try something new and put yourself in a leadership position. Grab opportunities and do them to the best of your ability even if you know they might fail. Stay in touch with developments in the industry and always make new connections
Be an excellent time manager. Your precious time is all you have, so spend it wisely on what you want, and how you want it, to improve yourself and to be happy & healthy.
Be fearless, it is the time to stand out from the crowd and show that nutrition experts know a lot more than just calories. Make your voice heard, step forward, and as Sheryl Sandberg said “lean in, and take your seat at the table”. Nobody will do it for you
Proactively ask for feedback. Wrote a piece? Delivered a project?, did a presentation? Got an idea? Always ask for feedback, this is incredibly good for improving your skills and to present clearly and succinctly in the future. You never know unless you ask!
Learn how to sell. This takes practice, but it is crucial. Know what you do, how you do it and who you do it for. Articulate clearly what you want to happen, ask for the business and follow-up continuously. Again, if you don´t, somebody else will.
Be the brand you want others to see. If you want to be known for sports nutrition, don´t blog about “how to paint”. The same goes for nutritionists, if you want to be known as the expert, blog about recent papers, critique new products, speak at events and raise the profile of the profession for all. Be consistent in how you look off- and online, by this I mean language used, colours, font, business cards, brand name etc so that others know what you stand for and what makes you unique.
A career is like a dance; get fit, learn the steps, evolve & make it your own, and finally leave a lasting impression…..I´m still working on mine.